This morning we’re getting back into our series that we started about a month ago – the Exploits of Elisha. Just to jog your memory a little bit (since it’s been two weeks since we talked about Elisha), Elisha was a young man, who when we first met him, was out plowing with a team of oxen in his field. He was a farmer. But along came Elijah – the prophet of God – and invited Elisha to become his apprentice – to train under him so that one day, he could replace Elijah as prophet. Elisha accepted the invitation. He BBQed his oxen and fed them to the townspeople and went and followed Elijah.
The next time we saw Elisha was about ten years later, when a poor widow was in desperate financial need. She was over her head in debt and creditors were coming to take away her sons as slaves. Elisha instructed her to gather up a whole pile of empty jars from her friends and neighbors and God miraculously multiplied the little bit of oil she had, so that she could fill every jar with oil – enough to sell and pay off her debts, and live happily ever after.
And today we are going to pick it up right where we left off – still in 2 Kings chapter 4, but this time starting in verse 8.
One day Elisha went to the town of Shunem. A wealthy woman lived there, and she urged him to come to her home for a meal. After that, whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for something to eat.
9 She said to her husband, I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy man of God. 10 Lets build a small room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by.
2 Kings 4:8-10
Now this is significant. It’s no small thing to build a room onto your house so that a traveling prophet has a place to stay whenever he comes by! There must have been some special connection between this couple and Elisha. Now that Elijah is no longer around to be Elisha’s mentor, perhaps this couple has taken up that task. As we’ll see as we keep reading, they seem to be a little older than he is, so perhaps the’ve taken on the role of his adopted parents. Probably some of you have a couple like that in your life – some older, wiser folks who have taken a special interest in your life. Someone who prays for you regularly and offers you wise advice and timely encouragement. I wonder if that’s the kind of relationship that Elisha had with this couple from Shunem.
I think I’ve been on both sides of that kind of relationship. In my younger years I spent a lot of time in the house of Gord Russell. Now they never built a room for me, but I sure spent a lot of time at their house – eating meals with them and playing games and just hanging out. And now on the flip side of that, I think of guys like Dustin and Greg Waddy who sometimes seem to spend more time at my house than they do at their own. But that’s great! I think that’s a great method of discipleship. That’s where people can really see how Christian’s live. Its one thing for people to see how you act in church on Sunday morning – it’s another thing for them to see how you act in your home on Monday night – when your kids are cranky and you’ve had a rough day at work. Your true character becomes very evident.
I think that’s why Jesus didn’t just hold Bible classes for the 12 disciples – he lived with them for three years. They got the chance to see who he really was – what he was really all about. I also think of Jim and Wilma – and how many young people have stayed at their house over the years. How many disciples have they made simply by opening up their home and allowing people to stay with them?
I encourage you, before we even get into the point of our story today, to make your house a second home for people. Do what this couple from Shunem did to Elisha. Befriend them. Invite that young person to spend the afternoon at your house… To eat spaghetti and watch the football game with you. That’s where discipleship happens.
But that’s getting completely off topic. We’d better get back to our story. Now in the next part of our story, we’re going to meet Gehazi – Elisha’s servant. And we’re going to hear more about him in the coming weeks, but this is the first place he is mentioned in the Bible – I wanted to mention that just so you know who he is…. Verse 11.
One day Elisha returned to Shunem, and he went up to this upper room to rest. 12 He said to his servant Gehazi, “Tell the woman from Shunem I want to speak to her.” When she appeared,13 Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tell her, ‘We appreciate the kind concern you have shown us. What can we do for you? Can we put in a good word for you to the king or to the commander of the army?’”
“No,” she replied, “my family takes good care of me.”
14 Later Elisha asked Gehazi, “What can we do for her?”
Gehazi replied, “She doesn’t have a son, and her husband is an old man.”
15 “Call her back again,” Elisha told him. When the woman returned, Elisha said to her as she stood in the doorway, 16 “Next year at this time you will be holding a son in your arms!”
“No, my lord!” she cried. “O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that.”
17 But sure enough, the woman soon became pregnant. And at that time the following year she had a son, just as Elisha had said.
2 Kings 4:11-17
This story has a lot of similarities to the story of Abraham and Sarah – how God promised them a son, even through they were beyond their child-bearing years. They had a hard time believing, like this Shunemite woman, that God would actually allow them to have child. You can see from the woman’s reaction that she didn’t really believe this could happen. She says in verse 16…
“No, my lord!” she cried. “O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that.” 2 Kings 4:16
And I think a lot of us have a hard time believing some of the promises of God.
- It’s hard to believe to God actually loves us. He knows how sinful we are, and He loves us anyway? That’s hard to believe.
- It’s hard to believe that “all things work together for good” – especially in a world with so much evil. How can those terrible things work together for good? It’s hard to believe.
- It’s hard to believe that one day we will become like Christ. That we will be sinless. We can’t even imagine that. That is certainly hard to believe.
But these are all promises of God – And every one of God’s promises are true. I was talking with the kids at the Christian school this week during chapel about Noah’s flood and God’s promise to never flood the earth again – and how as a sign of that promise, God gave them the rainbow. Every time we see a rainbow, we are reminded that God always keeps his promises. And the verse that I shared with them is actually a verse out of Daniel.
“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises.” Daniel 9:4
And this is exactly the truth that the Shunemite woman learned when she became pregnant and had a son, just as Elisha had told her. God always keeps his promises – even when they’re hard to believe.
But that’s only the beginning of the story. God had more miracles in store for that family. Verse 18…
18 One day when her child was older, he went out to help his father, who was working with the harvesters. 19 Suddenly he cried out, “My head hurts! My head hurts!”
His father said to one of the servants, “Carry him home to his mother.”
20 So the servant took him home, and his mother held him on her lap. But around noontime he died. 21 She carried him up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and left him there. 22 She sent a message to her husband: “Send one of the servants and a donkey so that I can hurry to the man of God and come right back.”
23 “Why go today?” he asked. “It is neither a new moon festival nor a Sabbath.”
But she said, “It will be all right.”
24 So she saddled the donkey and said to the servant, “Hurry! Don’t slow down unless I tell you to.”
25 As she approached the man of God at Mount Carmel, Elisha saw her in the distance. He said to Gehazi, “Look, the woman from Shunem is coming. 26 Run out to meet her and ask her, ‘Is everything all right with you, your husband, and your child?’”
“Yes,” the woman told Gehazi, “everything is fine.”
27 But when she came to the man of God at the mountain, she fell to the ground before him and caught hold of his feet. Gehazi began to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone. She is deeply troubled, but the Lord has not told me what it is.”
28 Then she said, “Did I ask you for a son, my lord? And didn’t I say, ‘Don’t deceive me and get my hopes up’?”
29 Then Elisha said to Gehazi, “Get ready to travel; take my staff and go! Don’t talk to anyone along the way. Go quickly and lay the staff on the child’s face.”
30 But the boy’s mother said, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I won’t go home unless you go with me.” So Elisha returned with her.
31 Gehazi hurried on ahead and laid the staff on the child’s face, but nothing happened. There was no sign of life. He returned to meet Elisha and told him, “The child is still dead.”
Now I’m going to stop here, because so far in this story, I’m finding a lot of unanswered questions. I think of that woman as she’s ridding her donkey to Elisha. Her only son has just died in her arms and you know she has to be asking the question: “Why, God? Why did you let this happen? Why would you miraculously give me a son in my old age, only to take him away again? Is this a cruel joke? Why are you doing this to me?”
And then Gehazi, as he takes Elisha’s staff and lays it on the boy’s face just as Elisha had instructed, but then nothing happened. I’m sure he expected something to happen. I think Gehazi had some questions of his own. “Why isn’t this working? Did I do something wrong? Why isn’t God responding?”
And then as he reports back to Elisha, I wonder if Elisha had a few questions for God too. I’m presuming that it was God that prompted him to send Gehazi with the staff – I don’t think he just thought of that off the top of his head. So I’m sure he too, was wondering what God was doing. “What’s the deal, God? Why did you have me send Gehazi with that staff if You weren’t going to do anything anyway?”
There’s a lot of un-answered questions here. But because this story and these details have been recorded in the Scriptures, I know that in part, at least, these things happened for our benefit. Otherwise, they would not have been recorded in the Scriptures. Part of the reason why God allowed these things to happen, is so that they could be recorded and we, in 2012, could learn from them.
And I know that God may be speaking to you differently from how He’s speaking to me, but let me share with you just two lesson that God’s been teaching me through this story.
#1. Sometime God is silent.
Look at verse 27.
But when she came to the man of God at the mountain, she fell to the ground before him and caught hold of his feet. Gehazi began to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone. She is deeply troubled, but the Lord has not told me what it is.”
2 Kings 4:27
“The Lord has not told me what it is.” For some reason unknown to Elisha, God wasn’t telling him what was going on. God remained silent.
And again in verse 31, we see God offering no response to Gehazi either.
Gehazi hurried on ahead and laid the staff on the child’s face, but nothing happened. There was no sign of life. He returned to meet Elisha and told him, “The child is still dead.”
2 Kings 4:31
God seemed silent and unresponsive. Did that mean that God didn’t care? Or that God was absent? No certainly not. Sometimes, often for reasons unknown to us, God is silent.
Chances are, you’ve experience this at some time in your life. Where God doesn’t seem to answer your prayers. Where He doesn’t seem to speak to you through His Word. I know there are prayers that I’ve been praying for some 15 years now, and they still haven’t been answered. Sometimes, God is silent. But He is never absent.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Even though sometimes God is silent, he always present. He knows exactly what’s going on. He knows your concerns and he is well able to handle them – but in His way and in His time. He has a perfect plan in mind “to make all things work together for good” – he just might not tell you about those plans ahead of time. So we need to follow the advice of Isaiah 41:10 which says…
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Sometimes God is silent – but He is always present.
That’s the first lesson that I learn from this story. Let’s read continue reading to find the second lesson. Verse 32.
When Elisha arrived, the child was indeed dead, lying there on the prophet’s bed. 33 He went in alone and shut the door behind him and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he lay down on the child’s body, placing his mouth on the child’s mouth, his eyes on the child’s eyes, and his hands on the child’s hands. And as he stretched out on him, the child’s body began to grow warm again! 35 Elisha got up, walked back and forth across the room once, and then stretched himself out again on the child. This time the boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes!
36 Then Elisha summoned Gehazi. “Call the child’s mother!” he said. And when she came in, Elisha said, “Here, take your son!”
37 She fell at his feet and bowed before him, overwhelmed with gratitude. Then she took her son in her arms and carried him downstairs.
2 Kings 4:32-37
God had done a fantastic miracle! The woman’s only child, who had died in her arms just hours ago – was given back to her alive and well! And that leads me to our second lesson…
#2. God still does miracles.
Now, I admit that I am the first to be a skeptic. Coming from a non-charismatic, very conservative church background, my first thought when I hear about supernatural healings or things like that – my first thought is “Ah, it’s some scam by some tv preacher. Or its all in their head or something like that.” It’s hard for me to accept that God would do real miracles in real people in my time – in my community.
I don’t know what kind of a church background you have, but in my upbringing, miracles and supernatural healings happened in the Bible – but not so much today.
Heather and I first attended a healing service at the Alliance prayer retreat four years ago – and I was pretty skeptical. In fact, I was a little weirded out. There were people dabbing oil on each other and everyone would gather around the person and put there hands on them and pray for them. That kinda stuff never happened in my church.
But you know what? God answered those prayers. People were genuinely healed. I didn’t see anyone jump up out of their wheelchair and start dancing, but I heard stories later of how people with chronic back pain woke up the next morning with the pain totally gone.
Just this last year at prayer retreat, we heard the story of a woman in Red Deer who had been confined to a wheelchair for years for reasons I can’t remember right now – but after several people prayed for healing for her, she amazingly began to be able to use her legs again. It’s been a slow process, but she now walks around without her wheelchair. God did a miracle for that woman.
And God still does miracles. I know it goes against our logical thinking, but if God can raise the Shunemite woman’s boy back to life – can’t He do a miracle for you too?
God hasn’t changed. He is still all-powerful. He’s still the Lord of the Universe and the author of Life. There is no impossible task that we can think of that is too difficult for Him.
Most of you are familiar with the story of Bartimaeus – a blind beggar who lived during the time of Jesus. We read about him in the book of Mark. Let me read just a few verses from that passage in Mark 10 – starting at verse 47.
When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.
But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”
So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” 50 Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.
“My rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”
52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.
And I wonder if Jesus is asking us the same question that he asked Bartimaeus – “What do you want me to do for you?” What impossible, outrageous, un-imaginable thing do you want me to do in your life?
Maybe for some of us, the answer would be the salvation of a loved one. Maybe you have some family member or friend or a neighbor that seem so far from God. Their heart seems to closed – it would be a miracle to see that person come to know Christ.
Or maybe for others, the impossible task is a broken relationship. Maybe with a parent – maybe with your child – maybe with your spouse – The hurts are so deep and reconciliation simply seems impossible. Perhaps that’s the miracle you would ask for.
Or maybe for others, you have lifelong dream to go or to be or to do something with your life, but right now – that dream seems so far away and so impossible to achieve.
And these are but a few examples. But I am sure that each of us have some impossibility in our life – some issue that we are dealing with that requires a literal miracle.
So I want to challenge all of us today – why don’t we ask God for that miracle? Really, it’s no biggy for God. Our God is a God of miracles. He restores sight to blind men. He gives the ability to walk again to ladies in Red Deer. He raises young Shunemite boys back to life. And He can do a miracle in your life as well!
Of course, if we ask, there is the possibility that He might remain silent. He might say no. He might say “not right now – keep on praying” But… He also might say yes. And He might totally blow your mind with His goodness to you!
So to close this morning, I want to do something just a little different. We’re not going to close with a song or benediction this morning. Instead, I’m going to invite you, just with the people that are sitting around you, to share one of your impossible, outrageous, un-imaginable things that you want God to do in your life. As your church family, we want to pray with you that God would do a miracle in your life.
After all, Jesus said in John 14:13…
“You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” John 14:13-14
We are also instructed in Hebrews 4:16…
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16
And one more verse in 1 John 5:14.
“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. 15 And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” 1 John 5:14-15
This isn’t to say that God is a magic wishing well – here to give us our every desire, but rather He is a loving Father who delights in giving good gifts to children. And in the times when He says ‘no’, we can have confidence that it’s not because he doesn’t love us, but because he has something better in mind. But we’ll never know unless we ask.